Is it Canada 150, or 15,000? Let’s take time to sit with this question and consider the knowledge that the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada goes back so much farther than 150 years on this land. There are many titles I would love to share with you to celebrate Indigenous Canadian authors. I hope you are inspired to continue searching for more amazing titles and share your favourite authors in the comments section. Below you will find work by First Nations, Métis and Inuit authors. Pick up a book of poetry by Métis author, Marilyn Dumont, an adventurous Young Adult historical fiction novel based on traditional Inuit knowledge, by authors Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, read to your kids about dipnetting in the Cariboo Chilcotin region in Willie Sellar’s children’s picture book, or delve into challenging coming of age novels by Richard Van Camp and Eden Robinson for the #NVCLreadsFirstNations category in our #NVCLreads Canada 150 Bingo game.
Leading off this list is the work of award winning author, Richard Wagamese, who passed in March this year:
Medicine Walk, by Richard Wagamese
Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, Eldon. He’s sixteen years old and has had the most fleeting of relationships with the man. The rare moments they’ve shared haunt and trouble Frank, but he answers the call, a son’s duty to a father. He finds Eldon decimated after years of drinking, dying of liver failure in a small town flophouse. Eldon asks his son to take him into the mountains, so he may be buried in the traditional Ojibway manner. What ensues is a journey through the rugged and beautiful backcountry, and a journey into the past, as the two men push forward to Eldon’s end.
Skraelings, by Rachel & Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley (Young Adult)
In this adventurous novel–set in the ancient Arctic, but told by an inquisitive and entertaining contemporary narrator–a wandering Inuit hunter named Kannujaq happens upon a camp in grave peril. The inhabitants of the camp are Tuniit, a race of ancient Inuit ancestors known for their strength and shyness. The tranquility of this Tuniit camp has been shaken by a group of murderous, pale, bearded strangers who have arrived on a huge boat shaped like a loon. Unbeknownst to Kannujaq, he has stumbled upon a battle between the Tuniit and a group of Viking warriors.
A Really Good Brown Girl, by Marilyn Dumont (Poetry)
Marilyn Dumont’s Métis heritage offers her challenges that few of us welcome. Here she turns them to opportunities: in a voice that is fierce, direct, and true, she explores and transcends the multiple boundaries imposed by society on the self. She celebrates the person, clearly observing, who defines her own life.
Could alternately be used for #NVCLreadsPoetry
Dipnetting with Dad, by Willie Sellars (Picture Book)
BUMP, BUMP – SLAP, river sockeye salmon are pulled onto shore! Set in the beautiful landscape of the Cariboo Chilcotin region, Dipnetting With Dad, is a delightful and colourful story of a father teaching his son the Secwepemc method of fishing known as dipnetting. Together they visit the sweat lodge, mend the nets, select the best fishing spot and catch and pack their fish through rugged bush back to the family home for traditional preparation. Willie Sellars captures family values, the importance of storytelling, community living and coming of age in one of BC’s oldest cultures.
Monkey Beach, by Eden Robinson
The story grips the reader from the beginning. It is the morning after the narrator’s brother has gone missing at sea; the mood is tense in the family house, as speculations remain unspoken. Jimmy is a prospective Olympic swimmer, seventeen years old and on the edge of proposing to his beautiful girlfriend Karaoke. As his elder sister, Lisa, faces possible disaster, she chain-smokes and drifts into thoughts of their lives so far. She recalls the time when she and Jimmy saw the sasquatch, or b’gwus – and this sighting introduces the novel’s fascinating undercurrent of characters from the spirit world. These ghostly presences may strike the reader as mysterious or frightening, but they provide Lisa with guidance through a difficult coming of age.
The Lesser Blessed, by Richard Van Camp
The Lesser Blessed tracks the exploits of Larry Sole, a Dogrib teenager living in the small Northern town of Fort Simmer. After losing much of his memory in a violent accident, what he loves more than anything is reading, hearing and collecting stories. With no interest in booze or sports, he floats on the edges of high school life, sustained by his love of Iron Maiden and a hopeless passion for school hottie Juliet Hope. When good-looking, trouble-seeking Johnny Beck moves into town, he shakes up Larry’s dreamy existence, bringing him face to face with memories that he’s done his best to lose.
This list is in no way comprehensive, so I hope that each of these titles will be a jumping off point for you to continue to explore and enjoy the work of Indigenous Canadian authors.